Posts Tagged ‘wardrobe’

Defining Your Personal Style, Part Two: The Essentials

So, every book on fashion ever written has a chapter or section on essentials. I, personally, find these really useless. Example? The “essential” crisp white button up shirt is a total throwaway to me. They make me think of servers, finding button up shirts that fit at bust and waist is a nigh-impossibility for me, and hellooooooo stains! Admittedly, I am a wee bit klutzy when it comes to food and that might be a large part of my bias towards this supposed wardrobe essential (+ most anything white). But, psst, if you’re curious about creative ways to work it in to your style, check out Sal’s post on the subject.

Really, everyone’s essentials are going to be different – the most you can say is that people with similar styles might have similar essentials. But depending on a person’s favorite/most flattering colors, figure, or nuances in their taste, even that might not be the same. Why am I doing an “essentials” post then? Well, if there’s someone with a similar style to mine – which I’m going to very roughly define as a love of bright colors mixed with retro influence and a healthy dose of whimsy + a love for dark fairy tales and 70’s punks (I said very roughly, didn’t I?!) – my list might be a good starting point. But mostly, I’m hoping that by showing you my thought process in choosing them, it will make you realize your own. What are your basics? See anything that’s on my list? Why are they so essential and versatile in outfits? What do you love about them, and, if anything, what do you dislike?

Ok. Now that you’re thinking about that, here’s my list:

  • Black patent Mary Jane heels – I bought the Sofft shoes back in, I think, November. I have worn them COUNTLESS times since. They can make a look more polished, they work fantastically with retro-inspired outfits, and they can ground a really “out there” look. Some people find patent tacky, but I love it.
  • High waisted pencil skirt. I love high waisted skirts, I really do. I very rarely wear it with the tops tucked in (although that does make legs look a mile long, especially when paired with a heel/wedge that doesn’t have any straps – creates an unbroken line), but girls – a high waisted skirt will suck you in like you would not believe, without being uncomfortable!, and just having the fabric between your top and your tummy tends to make the top lie smoother.
  • Peep-toe slingbacks in a neutral color – Mine are black. I’m putting these on the list even though I haven’t had them long (I’m speaking of my Pekoe Fluevog slingbacks), because I’ve had them two weeks and worn them probably 5-10 times already! They’ve gotten rid of my old aversion to open-toed shoes singlehandedly. They’re cute, fun, and flirty – this pair has a little extra going on with the knotted leather, but a p lain pair would be just as versatile, I’m sure. Slingbacks are so great for me because I seem to have a problem with heels slipping – a strap across the foot or a slingback seems to really help with this problem.
  • A-line skirt, or, conversely, a circle skirt. I know these are NOT the same thing, but I consider them essentials for similar reasons – they look cute with almost anything (given that the colors don’t clash terribly, of course) and add a little retro flair. My only real beef with circle skirts is that, usually, you have to tuck the shirt or top you’re wearing in, or it’s not very flattering. This problem might not exist without wearing a petticoat underneath it, I’m not 100% sure. That’s not usually a problem with a-line skirts, though.
  • Black boots. If you’ve been paying attention, you know I love me some boots. I wear them year round and scoff at those who say boots are winter wear only! A good pair of black boots can go just about anywhere and with anything. I own several variations on this (Dansko ankle boots, Nine West lace-ups with buckle accents, slouchy Bronx boots, and the Fluevog engineer boots), and if I don’t already have a pair of shoes planned for an outfit I usually turn to one of those pairs.
  • Big costume jewelry rings. I love them, ’nuff said. They are sparkly and awesome and borderline tacky, everything I love in a piece of jewelry!
  • Feathery and/or otherwise over the top hair accessories. They make me feel glamorous and amazing, and really, that’s enough of a reason to be an essential, don’t you think?

Another exercise is to look at one of the dreaded “every closet MUST HAVE THIS!” lists. To start getting an idea of basic wardrobe building blocks, take each individual item on the list and think about why they suggested it (aside from that a lot of essential lists are simply rehashes of every other one every written *cough*), and then think of something that has your own little twist that fulfills the same function. Example: the white t-shirt. I’ve seen some lists that say you should have three of this item in your wardrobe. No matter what. But me – aside from the aforementioned food hazards, I very rarely wear white and not by my face if I can at all help it, because it washes me out. Since I am, you know, very nearly that color myself! So what takes the place of a white t-shirt (i.e. a piece that is a blank canvas and can be accessorized or layered at will – why most lists seem to love the white shirt) in my case, would be a black puff-sleeve shirt – black because it goes with everything I own, puff sleeves add that little bit of whimsy I love. This method is how I realized that I need a shirt as described in my wardrobe, and so I’m planning on purchasing one soon!

Now, I’m going to ask you again – what items do you find yourself turning to again and again? Wearing over and over? It really helps to make a list of these, or at least really think about it. If the current versions of these items are getting worn out and/or are uncomfortable (doubly so if they’re uncomfortable and you keep wearing them – you trooper you!), you might look in to investing in another version of them. To me, the smartest way to build a wardrobe is to get the highest quality you can (which does not mean spending oodles!) on the things you’ll wear constantly, and get more budget-friendly versions of the rest. Then again, my high waisted pencil skirt is a Converse one from Target that’s lasted great so far, so whatever works for you is, again, the rule of thumb!

Whew. Now that THAT process is over, what are your newly discovered style essentials? Have you realized that there’s something you’re missing? And let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see covered!

Coming up next: how to put together an outfit based on a photo or film.

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