Sunday, March 16, 2014

Maqsad reflects: on how to figure out your style

I grew up thoroughly unstylish, the second-born of four, wearing hand me downs and declaring that I didn't actually care. My sister was the one who cared and created, never scared to cut up garments she was bored off, literally razor off sweater fuzz (she invented the idea for herself and I told her she was crazy, not realizing that it was actually universal wisdom). So I always wore the too-boyish jeans, the odd sweaters, the wrong mix of colours and tried to keep up with my group of girl friends who routinely shopped and flaunted Oilily and Mexx, and later, unique finds from London, Paris, and Gap and Guess ( you can't expect logic or consistency from teens on a budget).

So when I came into my own, defining my style was important - and an epic fail. The humiliation personally endured whilst wearing patent shoes, square-toed loafers paired with staid suits, oversized jackets, etc, burns bright inside me still. Never mind that I actually want most of those pieces back because now I know what to do with them.

So here's what helped. I stumbled into the cool girls' blogs. The ones who want to make it in the fashion world in the age of digital media. Now I routinely read Atlantic-Pacific (AP) and, lately, Pink Peonies (PP). I have explored nearly all the well known ones but some are just too repetitive and vapid, albeit with visions of grandeur, for even my obsessive eye.

And I have some key observations about style, defining it, exploring it and making it work, based on what I've seen with these bloggers.

First, it's about knowing your silhouettes. We all have outfits that fit us mentally like our own skins. They make us feel classic. They make us feel at home. And they are flattering to our forms. Those are the ones we should keenly observe for the elements of the silhouettes that suit us best. For instance, AP has two standard silhouettes: she wears (pouffy) skirts with nipped in waists, and she wears boyfriend jeans. She varies along these two main arteries of her fashion skeleton. If the skirt isn't terribly pouffy, it will be a circle skirt with flattering swing. She knows how to focus attention on her legs, so she frequently swaps between short skirts and shorts.  

Cut, fit and drape. Some figures need more drape (in the cut of the *garments*) than others. Some would be swamped by drape. Again, knowing your classic look is a great clue on where to start figuring out your best look. In general, everyone looks terrific with *fabric* that drapes well. Fit cannot be emphasized enough. A drapey garment, for instance, needs to fit well at the angular points if your body: your neckline, your shoulders, potentially your hips. A pair of cropped pants need to look right down the thighs and be cropped just above the ankle to not look dumpy.

When you've established these two key points, silhouette, fit and drape, you can then start filling in the blanks with your choices in materials, colour, and bonus trendy accessories. Being true to oneself in these choices makes for success. I think this is why AP is unerring 99% of the time.

On colour: whilst JCrew would have us wear (it seems) all and any colour, the real opportunity in their offerings is to understand what flatters our hair and skin colours best.

The last observation I have is this: when you're really loving a new trend and can't quite get it right, bloggers like PP have tiny tricks (much as I am loathe to admit it) that really make it work. For instance, PP has this trick of folding up just the hem (and no more) of her skinny jeans. It's the smallest thing, but it takes the outfit somewhere more interesting.

I'd love to hear your observations too. Leave a comment to share what you've noted as a fashion anthropologist!

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